Literacy group's state gift to aid in book purchases by libraries

$250,000 donation is part of antitrust settlement

July 02, 2000|By Melody Holmes | Melody Holmes,SUN STAFF

Libraries throughout the state will get funds to purchase thousands of books through a $250,000 donation to the Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) program, as part of a 1998 antitrust settlement between the state and four toy manufacturers.

Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. presented the check Wednesday to Richard Sells, senior vice president of the 34-year-old literacy group, at James McHenry Elementary School in Southwest Baltimore.

Curran and the attorneys general of 43 other states had sued toy manufacturer Hasbro, two other toy manufacturers and Toys `R' Us stores, accusing them of manipulating the sale of toys by competing warehouse club stores.

The Washington-based program promotes family literacy by giving away new books to children and running literacy programs that the group says has served more than 5 million children over more than 30 years.

In Maryland, the annual program budget is $200,000, making the attorney general's donation "a major one-time addition to the program," said Sells.

The group will use the state's donation to purchase 19,500 books for library collections, and 11,360 books that will be given directly to about 6,000 children.

Sells said the organization has not decided which of the 80 RIF-affiliated programs in the state will receive the books. "Over the next 30 days or so, we will examine the neediest programs," he said.

To ensure fairness, RIF will look at its programs in Maryland, assess their budgets, and "try and fill in the gaps." Sells said. "Our intent is to try and include as significant a portion as possible, if not all of the 80 programs."

He said that because the 22 RIF-affiliated programs in Baltimore represent a fair percentage of the number in the state, the city is likely to get a considerable portion of the donation.

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